India rolled out the red carpet on Tuesday for US President Donald Trump on the second day of a visit high on spectacular optics, but deadly unrest exposed religious tensions that his host is accused of stoking.
The violence in New Delhi on Monday just as Trump arrived began as a standoff between supporters and opponents of a new citizenship law but degenerated into running battles between Hindus and Muslims, local media reported.
The law, which critics say forms part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda — which he denies — has sparked weeks of protests and violence but the fatalities were the first since December.
The seven dead in Delhi’s northeastern fringes include a police officer, according to BBC. More than 90 people were also wounded, police and hospital sources said, as the rioters armed with stones and even guns went on the rampage, setting fire to buildings and vehicles.
The authorities responded with tear gas and smoke grenades, sending in paramilitary security forces, shutting schools and banning the assembly of more than four people in the areas affected. Further rioting was reported on Tuesday.
The law has raised worries abroad — including in Washington — that Modi wants to remould secular India into a Hindu nation while marginalising the country’s 200 million Muslims, a claim Modi denies.
A senior US official told reporters that Trump would raise concerns about religious freedom during his lightning visit, calling them “extremely important to this administration”.
Relations with Pakistan
United States President Donald Trump says his country’s relationship with Pakistan is a very good one while addressing a crowd of around 100,000 people at the world’s largest cricket stadium during his maiden visit to India on Monday.
“Thanks to these efforts, we are beginning to see signs of big progress with Pakistan and we are hopeful for reduced tensions, greater stability and the future of harmony for all of the nations of South Asia,” said Trump on the first day of his trip.
He also spoke about the US administration working in a “very positive way” with Pakistan to crack down on terrorist organisations and militants.
On Tuesday Trump and Melania, in a buttoned-down floral print shirt dress, were given a ceremonial welcome with red-coated and turbaned mounted troops, booming cannons and the “Stars and Stripes”.
Shedding their shoes they then laid a wreath and showered petals at the open-air memorial where independence hero Mahatma Gandhi was cremated before they planted a tree.
With additional reporting from AFP.